Bi-Centennial Nebraska Hereford Tour of 1976
By Steve Moreland, written September 25, 2017
The United States of America celebrated its bicentennial year in 1976. There were lots of celebrations, pageants, and special happenings that occurred during that time. In those days, Hereford cattle were known as The Beef Breed Supreme. The Nebraska Hereford Association went all out for their annual Hereford Tour, which was a two-day event held on Monday and Tuesday, September 13th and 14th, 1976. Right at 1000 people signed in and attended all or at least part of this prestigious occasion.
The original plan was for the two-day tour to have its final stop at our Green Valley Hereford Ranch, owned by my parents Bob and Elaine Moreland. Their children were Steve, Sandra, Sybil, and Nancy Jean. Supper would be served, and then the final event of the tour would be a “Buy Centennial” auction. This sale would be a consignment attraction featuring one lot (bull, heifer, or cow/calf pair) from each of the 15 tour stops, representing progeny of great sires maintained by host breeders.
Just before advertising was to “go to press” and be published with ranch information and tour order, Dad was contacted to see if it would be satisfactory for our ranch to host the second day noon stop instead of the supper stop. It was determined that the Monahan Ranch northeast of Hyannis would be a more central location in the state to end the tour, giving the attendees from far away an easier trip back home. This was fine with our family, so we went ahead with the new plan.
The big day came, and we were as ready as we were going to get. As I recall, Kelly Ryan barbequed the beef. He was an equipment inventor and manufacturer from Blair, Nebraska who also enjoyed his hobby of preparing meat for large gatherings. I am thinking my mother and other Merriman Methodist Church ladies fixed the other foods, and did the serving. Our stop was scheduled from 11:15 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. There were at least 600 people who ate the noon meal in and around our sale barn, which was a 72’ x 48’ Morton building. Tables and chairs were in the building, and many other tables, chairs, and picnic tables were set up outside to accommodate the guests. The day was nice, the cattle looked good, and everyone seemed to be enjoying the experience. The time schedule didn’t allow for much dawdling. Soon the multitude of vehicles were kicking up dust as they traveled our two-track trail road for the two miles back to the oil strip. This would lead them to Highway 20, and eventually to Merriman, and to the Hyannis area. The last two stops of the tour were at the Lyle (Dick) Phipps Ranch and Monahan’s Circle Dot Ranch.
My dad loaded our sale consignment, an October-born year-old bull, onto the stock trailer, and followed along with the tour. I was 24 years old at the time, and it was my responsibility to get cattle back to proper pastures, and clean up after the brief invasion of lots of people. I had just unsaddled my horse at about 5 o’clock, and had gone to the house to call my dad’s mother, “Grandma Grace.” She had attended the dinner, and I was going to “shoot the breeze” with her to get her thoughts of the tour.
Conditions around the area were pretty dry, and with each passing cloud we hoped for a refreshing rain shower. I told Grandma Grace that it looked like another chance for rain had swung too far to the north and was going to miss us. As we visited, rain started falling. The storm had doubled back, and was building momentum. Soon there was enough sharp lightning to warrant hanging up the phone. The rain turned into a hard downpour, and then quite large hail stones commenced to fall. The wind howled, and the hard rain and hail continued for over an hour. Finally the storm broke, and a rainbow made an appearance. I went out to check our gauge. It showed 3.25 inches. Since the rain was falling sideways in the wind, undoubtedly more rain fell than what was measured. The storm was a true goose-drownder of a gully-washer, and left much devastation in its wake. I put on five-buckle overshoes on top of my boots, and went to inspect the damage.
The picnic tables, where only a few hours before 600 people had eaten dinner, were all under water. Some items were floating on the water. The place was a mess, and our two-track trail road was all washed out. Only four-wheel-drive vehicles had any kind of chance of going anywhere.
We had dodged a bullet. Had the tour gone ahead as originally planned, all of the guests would have been at our ranch for supper. This was right when the rain and hail were thundering down the hardest. There would have been a lot of vehicle windows broken, and people could have been badly hurt or even killed. A whole battalion of guardian angels seemed to have been on duty. As the old adage goes, “All is well that ends well.”